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The Piper PA32R Saratoga II TC


Alabeo PA32R-301T Saratoga II TC versus, as I can recall, the Carenado PA32R-301 Saratoga SP. Is it a comparison impression or not? No, it will be an impression with a fresh look on the Alabeo Saratoga II TC although a comparison was perhaps quickly made, but perhaps it’s also not fair. As far as my knowledge goes, let me explain why it’s not fair to compare a very old design with a brand new model. The original PA32-301 Saratoga SP was released somewhere in the end of 2010, beginning 2011 if I remember rightly Carenado’s second X-Plane aircraft and designed for X-plane 9.x and up. Oops, that’s a long time ago and perhaps, then this is answered too, you can’t expect from Carenado or Alabeo that they offer current Saratoga SP simmers a free update or a reduced update price. No, in that respect the Alabeo Saratoga II TC offers all features currently known with Carenado/Alabeo.

Perhaps it’s a good idea to offer you some background information of the Piper PA32R because both, Alabeo and Carenado, offer this aircraft type although I may hope it’s now clear that the old 2011 Saratoga SP is no longer a comparison with the brand new Saratoga II TC.

According to Wikipedia The Piper PA-32R is a six-seat, high-performance, single engine, all-metal fixed-wing aircraft produced by Piper Aircraft. The design began life as the Piper Lance, a retractable gear version of the Piper Cherokee Six. Later models became known by the designation Piper Saratoga. The primary difference between the Lance and early Saratoga is the development of a tapered wing on the Saratoga, replacing the “Hershey Bar” wing on the Lance that was a carryover from the Cherokee Six. Later Saratoga models provided updated/improved avionics, engine and interior touches but retained the same airframe design. Production of the Saratoga was discontinued in 2009.

 Until 1972, when the assembly line was destroyed in a flood, the Comanche was Piper’s luxury high-performance single. Afterwards, Piper began modifying its heavy lifting single engine PA-32 Cherokee Six, adding retractable landing gear and designating the type as the “PA-32R”.

The PA-32R was built under license by Embraer in Brazil as the Embraer EMB-721 Sertanejo. Kits for the PA-32R-300 (Six supplied), PA-32RT-300 (16) and PA-32RT-300T (Two) were supplied to Chincul in Argentina for completion. They were designated the PA-A-32R and PA-A-32RT.

For the 2008 model year, the Saratoga II HP (normally aspirated) model was eliminated, along with the 6X and 6XT (fixed-gear versions of the Saratoga), leaving the turbocharged Saratoga II TC as the only production model in the PA-32 line.”

While knowing now that the Carenado offers the PA-32R-301 being the Saratoga SP, what is then the Alabeo PA32 Saratoga II TC? For that, we need to dig a little deeper. Besides many more PA32 variants, let me emphasize on the older Carenado model and the new Alabeo aircraft. According to Wikipedia I found the following information:

PA-32R-301 (1980–2007) referred to as the Carenado Saratoga SP
The 1980 models reverted to a standard tail design, and were designated as the Saratoga SP. In 1993 the airplane received several cosmetic and systems updates and was designated as the Saratoga II HP.

 PA-32R-301T (1980–2009) known as the Alabeo Saratoga II TC
The 1980 Turbocharged model was given the name Turbo Saratoga SP. The name and model designation stayed the same through the 1996 model year, despite several updates to the airplane during that time.

Starting with the 1997 model year the airplane received a new designation, the Saratoga II TC, and a new Lycoming TIO-540-AH1A engine. Externally the biggest difference was the new cowl, with much smaller, round air inlets. 1997-1998 Saratoga II TC’s featured a King avionics suite, which was switched to dual Garmin GNS-430’s and a GTX-320 transponder with the 1999 models. In mid-2000 model year the avionics were again updated, with one Garmin GNS-430 and one GNS-530 and a GTX-327 transponder as standard equipment. Beginning in 2004 the Saratoga models were available with an Avidyne Entegra “Glass Panel” avionics system, which was replaced by the Garmin G1000 in 2007.

Great, now we know this, it’s time to explore the Alabeo Saratoga II TC, right?

But Before First …..

Installation, documents, package
Installing the Alabeo Saratoga II TC is easy. Just unzip the downloaded package which can be retrieved from Alabeo, Aerosoft or X-Plane.Org and install it in the General Aviation folder. Another option is, when you have more Alabeo aircraft, that you create a subfolder in the X-Plane’s General Aviation folder named Alabeo and put it right here. Up to you!

The Saratoga II TC is an aircraft that comes with standard old-fashioned instruments, however, it does have standard navigation and communication equipment like the Garmin GNS 430, GNS 530 and the GTX 327 etc. Because of that, I’m pleased to see that the Alabeo DOCUMENTATION folder offers dedicated user guides for the GNS430, GNS530 as well as for the Auto Pilot and AVSS (Altitude and Vertical Speed Indicator). And yes, I’m aware that the included Garmin GNS430 and GNS530 navigation devices are based on the default X-Plane Garmin instruments, neither less, I’m happy that Alabeo has included additional documentation of these units.

Further on, the Alabeo DOCUMENTATION folder comes with procedures (normal and emergency) documents, performance tables and a reference document. And as usual, a recommended rendering settings page is added.

The aircraft package comes with 4 N registered aircraft liveries (N5491, N65764, N82728 and N84969) as well as two Brazil liveries (PR-CLP and PR-FHM). The N registered aircraft can be checked with the FAA database (db) and assuming this db is correct, then none of the provided N registered aircraft are real or not linked to a P32. And finally, the package included also a white livery for our painters to paint their favorite livery.

The “C” and “O” icons
Although these Alabeo icons – also applicable to Carenado models – should be known now by everybody, it’s always possible that somebody is new to Carenado or Alabeo aircraft and therefore, I’ll add this section again in this impression.
The “C” is from Cameras and volume while the “O” is from Options.

The “C” from Cameras and volume popup window allows you to change the FOV (Field Of View), the sound volume and offers several internal and external previews.

The “O” for the Options popup window allows users with less powerful computers to remove the window- and instrument reflections which do cost frame rates although I haven’t noticed any impact on my iMac. The Saratoga II TC is modeled with several animated doors:
– L baggage door
– Pilot door
– Passenger doors

And finally, in the Option popup window you can change on-the-fly the aircraft livery. A handy and useful option. I’m pleased with the professional way Alabeo/Carenado has made this, but again, the company has implemented this already a while ago.

As seen with other aircraft from Carenado/Alabeo, this Saratoga II TC doesn’t come with an “A” for the Auto Pilot popup window, but that doesn’t mean there’s no popup of the AP panel. Instead, you can click on the AP panel and a 2D window popup. The same is also applicable for the Garmin GTX 327. The GTX 327 is basically an ATC panel with some additional functions. The same type of 2D popup windows are also applicable for the Garmin GNS430/530, and a couple of more panels.

No Time to Loose

I’m invited on a scenic flight in and around the airport of Pullman-Moscow Regional airport. For those who have no clue where this airport is …. it uses the ICAO code KPUW and lies in Whitman County and that’s located in the U.S. state of Washington.

That said, I’m not able to check the external beauty of this Alabeo model, at least, not right now. Perhaps I can ask the pilots to do my walk-around check after our scenic flight. What I can check is the modeled virtual cabin and the 3D cockpit of course. My cabin seat is close to the cockpit, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Modeled Virtual Cabin and 3D Cockpit
Anyway, I put my sports bag in the area located behind the AFT passenger seats via the opened baggage door. Since the Saratoga isn’t equipped with a small stair, the step-up into the cabin isn’t easy, but as it is in real-life. Once in the virtual cabin I decide to take the right hand seat directly behind the co-pilot. When you’re not familiar with left and right coordination in an aircraft. Always look in a flight direction thus from the tail to the nose of the aircraft. Everything left of the centerline of the aircraft is LEFT and for RIGHT, everything right of the center line.

The cabin of the Saratoga II TC isn’t a big one compared to, for example, the Titan 404 Ambassador which I recently reviewed, but on the other hand, it offers a much bigger virtual cabin then the Cessna C172 Series. I’m happy with how the VC 3D modeling is done, as usual I would say. The virtual cabin expresses an authentic cabin with everything included as you may expect in a cabin ranging from seat tracks, seat frames, seat leather textures, seat belts, side- and ceiling wall textures as well as the carpet textures and all tiny other things I’ve forgotten. It sounds so normal ……. “everything you would expect”, however it’s not always the case with other GA developers. There’s no divider wall between the FWD cabin seats and the pilot seats.

That said, you’ve got from these cabin seats a great view in the well-modeled and realistic looking 3D cockpit. What was basically applicable for the modeled virtual cabin, is also valid for the 3D cockpit. All cockpit panels or whatever you want to call them like the main or overall instrument panel, the pedestal, sidewalls, ceiling, side consoles, seat construction, floor textures etc. reflect a realistic look. In other words, a pleasure to see, to fly with thus to spend many hours in it.

For those who like old-fashioned instruments with the included Garmin navigation equipment, those will be happy simmers. The overall quality and modeling of the instruments (indicators), switches, knobs, and rheostats suggest that the Alabeo developers are highly skilled X-Plane people with the result – a gorgeous and authentic looking 3D cockpit instrumentation. The same implies for the presence of the Garmin GNS 430 and 530, as these are mounted in the real Saratoga II TC too, but a small note must be made that these are the default X-Plane Garmin units. Don’t get me wrong … there’s nothing wrong with this. Why go inventing the Garmin wheels once more?

The main instrument panel looks not only great from a distance, when zoomed in on the individual components you’ll be even more surprised of the modeling skills. While zoomed in on the main instrument panel, I’d also have a look to the microphone, located on the left hand sidewall and perhaps less interesting … the sidewall pocket located on the left hand sidewall underneath the instrument panel. While here, have a look to the following close-up screenshots of the EMERGENCY GEAR EXTENSION and parking brake handle. All these tiny components are all modeled with a lot of accuracy and yes, you and I may expect that, but when it turns out that it’s so beautiful to see, it makes me happy.

The main instrument panel is a kind of light brown color which could be the right color. Could be since many of these models are made and they not all had this light brown color. As far as I can see, the instruments itself as well as the panel have no signs of weathering or having a used look. Normally I would prefer this “weathered look” above a brand new looking panel and instruments for these old aircraft, but for some reason it goes well with the overall 3D cockpit, so no further thoughts about this. I mentioned something earlier about the default Garmin GNS430/530. I wrote that these belong to the default X-Plane navigation equipment, but looking more closely to the Garmin GNS4320/530 front panels, I got the idea that these have been modified by Alabeo since the original panels have Laminar written at the left hand top corner and the panel looks really different than the one in this Saratoga II TC.

But I need to inform you also about something that could be in my opinion be improved and that’s the selector panel with different system indications located between the altimeter and Garmin GNS 530. It has a selector switch in the middle with the following positions: FUEL, INST, ELEC EXCO and TEMP. Further on a SEL button on the right and left of the panel UP and DOWN arrow buttons. They are a little fussy, in particular when you compare that with the altimeter dial scale. But the shown indications are razor sharp and that makes the different between the panel text and indications so odd. See the following sample screenshots.

What I wrote above is more or less also applicable for the front panels of the Garmin GNS430/530. Not sure why the text on these two Garmin front panels aren’t so crispy as the other text on the instrument panel or dial plates of the instruments. That said, the GNS 430/530 display screens are razor sharp, but that I think the part of the default Garmin stuff. Perhaps Alabeo can have a closer look into this and see what’s possible to improve this too.

Oops, let me not forget the night or evening lighting system. Wow, this is really gorgeous. It looks like this is over the top, but no, it’s so nice to see how this is made. For starting the engine, you won’t find a key on the left hand side of the instrument panel which is more or less common to GA aircraft. In the Saratoga II TC you’ll find these controls as well as the selection of the magnetos at the overhead. I won’t call it an overhead panel since it’s only a row of switches. The moment you select the BAT ON, a right hand sea blue cockpit light illuminates.

The left hand sea blue cockpit light is controlled via the DOME LIGHT rheostat. Anyway, before starting the engine from a cold and dark start, don’t forget to select the MIXTURE to RICH and don’t forget to FUEL PUMP ON. At startup, the fuel selector valve, located at the floor, is by default in the LEFT TANK. It can be selected OFF or to the RIGHT TANK. When you’ve manually refueled or you feel that the default amount of fuel is OK, you can start the engine from the LEFT TANK, but don’t forget to select is also to the RIGHT TANK so manually cross-feeding is needed.

The Flight

In case you want to do it all by the book, check out or print the PA32-301T Normal Procedures Acrobat file. This not only covers the normal procedures, but it starts right away with the checklist. A better way to follow the flow of starting an engine, settings all systems as you want or as they must be, and your ready to go. That said, After I’ve followed the checklist, I’m ready to taxi to the runway. Taxiing goes easy! Nothing special, just steer to keep it on the center line, that’s all you need to do. Last check list items before my actual takeoff run, and before I know I’m in the air. Even the takeoff goes smooth.

The aircraft responds good to the hardware controls and once in the air, it flies so easy. Although there’s a AP installed, flying by hand with the help of trim is great. Is this reflecting the real Saratoga II TC? No idea, but on the other hand, I can expect that this was in real also an easy to go GA aircraft. The real aircraft and the modeled Saratoga too, have a pitch and rudder trim. Keep that in mind that when you have assigned your hardware to the pitch and aileron trim. Although aileron trim works fine with the Saratoga too, it’s not as real as it gets.

Suppose you intend to make a longer flight, then I would suggest to connect the AP. Either use the build in panel or click on it and a 2D popup window appears. In my humble opinion, much easier to fly with. When you want to use HDG HLD or HDG SEL, click the HDG button and the AP automatically connects to the HDG HLD mode. Actually, there’s no HDG SEL however when you rotate the HDG bug, the aircraft will turn towards the new selected HDG. The same for NAV, ALT or VS buttons and belonging modes, but hold on, how can I disconnect the AP? I searched and searched and after a while I found out that there’s no AP disconnect, or I missed it completely. But you can always disconnect the AP by using the AP PITCH trim switch on your hardware. Then the whole AP disconnects from every previous mode.

As you can see on the following screenshot, when using the AP control panel, you should also look and use the AP annunciator panel and the panel right of it, that popups automatically with it. The annunciator panel speaks for itself, but on the right panel (marked with a yellow square) you’re able to make pre-selections for altitude and vertical speed although a preselected vertical speed can also be done on the AP control panel. Further on, this panel offers changes to be made for DH (Decision Height), BAR (barometric value). That said, the other buttons on this panel – DTA, ALR and MAN – seems to me not responding. But overall, I like these popup windows. They are well modeled, text is sharp, indications are great and therefore, the overall 2D windows are a pleasure to have in view and to work with.

You can fly the Saratoga II TC via the left or right pilot seat. The instrument needed for this, the famous “T” arranged instruments, are also available on the right hand instrument panel. These are the IAS, horizon, altimeter and compass. Ok, I must admit that the left hand instruments look a little more advanced which is true, but the basic instruments you need to fly this Saratoga VFR, are also on the right hand side. With the Saratoga being flown by the AP, it gives me again the time for another thorough check on the overall 3D cockpit. I was already convinced of the 3D skills of the Alabeo modelers, but couldn’t leave it to check it once more. See the screenshots below of this second thorough check and look to those tiny details. Awesome!

As I said before, it’s just a small cross country trip to see how this Saratoga flies and I must say, I’m happy with it. It’s a basic model with mainly old-fashioned instruments and some modern navigation equipment as well as a good working AP. Do you need anything more? No, it’s great to fly this way and although the Saratoga is designed to fly IFR, flying VFR with it will give you just a much fun.

Finally …

Enough about this.
I had tuned in the meantime for VOR PUW which is our airport. With the AP connected in NAV mode, the Saratoga flies and flies and oops, the only thing I need to keep in mind, is the fuel consumption from the left hand fuel tank. Can you remember that I mentioned this before? …. don’t forget to switch on a regular base also to the other fuel tank. This keeps the fuel balance between the wing tanks more or less equal. Besides that, not much to do except monitoring the IAS and double check where you’re flying. When the AP has brought us back near VOR/DME PUW, I decide to disconnect the AP and fly the remainder of the flight to KPUW by hand. Trimming is needed, but no complicated things expected and above all, it flies great by hand. The Saratoga smoothly follows my steering (or trim) commands. Don’t worry when you need to make a steep turn with the Saratoga, it does the job perfectly. This is by the way, the same also for slow flights with and without flaps.

Before turning to final, I suddenly think that I haven’t checked flying a flight plan, loaded into the GNS 530. Perhaps, after I completed my walk-around check, I’ll explain that to you although it’s not a complex procedure, as long as you know, I would say.

Making my final turn for landing on the runway feels so good. I just look to PAPI and follow that glide path. Easy go and before I know the Saratoga has safely touched the ground. Don’t think it’s over yet …….. keep your aircraft at the center line. Not that it’s difficult but just to keep you awake.

Although I didn’t use for this flight any Garmin GNS equipment, I did test flying to and from a VOR/DME or VORTAC beacon. Not that flying following a flight plan is the same, but it’s not much different besides that you select on the GNS430/530 the CDI button to GPS instead of V/LOC. On the AP panel, you use the same NAV button to connect to the flight plan. But how to load a flight plan? Let me explain this first before doing the walk-around check.

Loading a FP in the GNS430/530

For creating a flight plan you can use many freeware or payware programs of which some of the freeware are just websites. I use often for making a flight plan Online Flight Planner. This online flight planner uses the RouteFinder database, but this website planner offers several export options, of which one is the “fms”, needed for X-Plane default Garmin GNS430/530.

One more thing about the OnlineFlightPlanner website. I’m well aware that this website isn’t perfect. One of the quirky things is that you never find your aircraft in the list. In this case I try to look for the Piper PA32 Saratoga, but it’s difficult to find since it isn’t in the list so perhaps I should go for the Cessna Grand Caravan. Anyway, as far as I know, I’m not able to create a new aircraft in this aircraft list for next time.

Ok, here we go.
Copy the created fms file into the X-Plane root folder Output/FMS plans. With the fms file in this folder, you’re able to load the flight plan into the Garmin GNS 430 and/or GNS 530. Without any further explanation, it could become a night mare and frustration how to load it into these Garmin units, therefore let me help you out with loading a ready to use flight plan. Once the Saratoga II TC is fully electrically powered, click the flight plan button till you got the empty “ACTIVE FLIGHT PLAN” page. Next click once on the right hand inner knob. Ho ho, hold on. Too quick! In case you have a flight plan loaded, also no problem as long as you select the FP button and having the ACTIVE FLIGHT PLAN” page in view. Suppose you see in the left hand window of the GNS 430 a green highlighted waypoint, airport or VOR/DME station, click the PUSH CRCS button once till the highlighted waypoint is extinguished.

In case you have the “mouse scroll” active, place the mouse symbol at the right hand side of the inner knob and rotate the middle mouse wheel one click. In both cases, the previous page is replaced by a “FLIGHT PLAN CATALOG”.

Nice, but still no “fms” file has been highlighted or activated although I see one of more flight plans in the list. First click the PUSH CRCS button once. This will highlight the upper flight plan. Click next on the right hand outer knob. When the page only shows one flight plan, then this is most likely yours. When you have more flight plans installed, then click as many times on the outer ring of the PUSH CRCS knob as needed. Once your flight plan is highlighted, click the ENT (enter) pushbutton. Your GNS 430 goes back to the overview page and shows a loaded flight plan. The above procedure is the same when you want to load your flight plan into the GNS 530. And, having said that, remember that these GNS 430 and GNS 530 work independently of each other, at least, that’s what I’ve seen while fiddling around. Thus, in case you’ve lost track, when you’ve loaded your flight plan in the GNS430, the GNS 530 doesn’t have anything loaded. So as it is now, you can use the GNS 430 or the GNS 530. Still I think it’s worth your while to double check my statement with Alabeo. One GNS, no matter if it’s the 430 or 530, is handled as the “Pilot’s” one with linked to NAV1, COM1, and GPS1 while the other GNS is handled as the “Copilot’s” unit and linked to NAV2, COM2, and GPS2.

One small detail, I noticed, but not something to worry about. The Garmin GNS430/530 front panels are different then the ones of the 2D popups. The 2D GNS430/530 popups are really the default X-Plane 10 panels while the 3D build in front panels are the once created and modified by Alabeo/Carenado.

Saratoga Inspection

Although I’ve ticked “static elements” via the Option menu, the tow unit is not operational in case you think that it would be the case. You can’t use it to tow the aircraft to another location, nor can the unit provide electrical power for the Saratoga. Just to clarify this!

As far as I can see, the modeled Saratoga or better to say the external textures, are showing you a brand new aircraft without a scratch or weathered places. I can remember that this was different with the Titan 404 which as a “used” look. Weathered or not, the external model looks good and when I try to compare this 3D model with real pictures and/or drawings, I’ve got the feeling that this is well made. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy with all what I see and honestly, I also don’t know why this is of a sudden of a lesser quality than with the SR22 Turbo. Let me give you an example; the fuel cap and placard on the top of the wing. On the SR22 Turbo the text was razor sharp, on this Saratoga, it isn’t at all. Not that I can’t read the text, but I had expected better. Another example; the passenger door handle near the top of this door.

There’s written or I assume “OPEN“ and “CLOSE” but it’s so blurry that it’s more guessing than 100 percent sure what’s written here. Another example is the stainless steel aircraft ID plate underneath the horizontal stabilizer left hand fuselage. Perhaps there’s more of this, but my point is that there’s need for this and looking to other GA aircraft developers, it can be better, much better. Besides that, new designed Carenado and Alabeo aircraft don’t have these blurry text placards on the outside of the aircraft. So perhaps … perhaps Alabeo can check these in my humble opinion blurry text placards and improve them.

It would be also a good idea when included in an update, to replace the blurry mirror image text on the propeller blades. Although I can read in mirror image what’s written on each blade, I’ve seen much better quality with other Alabeo and Carenado aircraft.

Besides these “text” issues, I’m more or less satisfied with the external aircraft modeling. Textures … could be better! A further inspection at the NLG (Nose Landing Gear) and MLG (Main Landing Gear) reveals a thorough and accurate modeling with good looking textures although I would love to have seen struts which are a little more dirty then they are now. I spot some weathering, but it looks quite clean to me, a little too clean. Does it harm the modeling and overall look? No, not at all, I have to be honest with that, but a little more “used” look would be realistic for such an old aircraft type.

Anything Else?

Let me start with the sound. Great although I’ve got no idea if this is really recorded from a Saratoga II TC, but it is for sure different than what I’ve heard so far. I’m not sure if this is because of the huge size of the dedicated Saratoga II TC sound folder which is almost 65MB and for sound, that means a lot of dedicated files.

As expected a little bit before, this GA aircraft produces good frame rates. It doesn’t surprise me to be honest. It does have two Garmin navigation devices, the AP and some other fancy instruments besides the old-fashioned indicators, it produces good frame rates, but what is good? There we go again …. Besides that, it depends on the type of hardware you have, the screen resolution and perhaps the most important section; which settings you use in X-Plane rendering options. When you keep all of this in mind, frame rates starting from 25-30 are absolutely possible. Then you think …. 25-30 FPS, that’s not much, no, you’re right with that, but keep in mind, this is with very high rendering settings on my iMac and still having a good looking Saratoga. Even I can get 40 or 50 FPS, but then I need to reduce the X-Plane rendering settings or not having X-Plane in full screen mode. Even my iMac isn’t unlimited!

Another Flight or the end?

I didn’t plan an extra flight, but I wanted to see for myself how to handle the Garmin GNS 430 and the GNS 530. I’m curious how this works or that at the end you only use the GNS 430 or the GNS 530. Therefore, the following section is to offer you a more thorough look into the dual Garmin GNS devices and how to deal with them.

As an example I used for this my previous discussed flight plan. I’ve pasted my KPUWCYCD.fms flight plan in the X-Plane’s “Output/FMS Plans” folder and loaded it into both the GNS 430 and GNS 530. At first, I’ll use the GNS 530 for navigation only and while on my way, I’ll see what I can do with the GNS 430 which has the same flight plan loaded.

Ok, here we go.
I’m parked with my Alabeo Saratoga at the Aerosoft Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport ramp start interstate prop position 2. Assigned runway is 06. This means the other side of the airport, and perhaps a long turn is needed to pick up the flight plan, but that doesn’t’ matter. After takeoff I fly initially on runway heading (HDG HLD), so don’t forget to set the HDG bug on the HSI before takeoff to the actual runway heading. Climb out to 6000 feet, then use HDG SEL, pointing towards the first waypoint and then switch to NAV (GPS) mode or you can switch directly from HDG mode to the NAV mode. Whatever you prefer. I write on purpose between brackets GPS because the GPS is needed to connect the Garmin flight plan to the AP. Finally, I will climb out to FL100 although higher would be possible too.

What I experienced in my previous flight, taxing with the Saratoga is easy and feels good and that in combination with my hardware, the Saratoga responds directly and as a result, steering feels good and movements are smooth too. Due to the good external view from the 3D cockpit, there’s not really a need to use e.g. keyboard combination “Ctrl+4” to move outside the aircraft while taxing. Another thing I want to bring up is using the 2D above the 3D cockpit thus ….. is there a need to use the 2D cockpit instead of the 3D cockpit because of FPS? No, perhaps there’s a minor reduction in FPS when using the 3D cockpit, but I haven’t noticed it. Besides that, the movements that can be made in the 3D cockpit offer a much more realistic feeling.

Ready to go for takeoff, I set the required equipment and then, off I go in the air. Once airborne, retract the landing gear and after a while the flaps too. With a clean configuration I climb out with 1200 feet/minute in HDG HLD mode. My initial altitude will be 6000 feet which is approximately 3500 feet above KPUW. That said, KPUW lies at an altitude of 2560 feet. While approaching 6000 feet, I check once more if the CDI on the GNS 530 is set to GPS and switch on the AP panel from HDG to NAV mode. When you had set the CDI on the GNS 530 to V/LOC, then you would follow a VOR/VORTAC station in conjunction with the AP. Because you’ve set the CDI to GPS, the flight plan or FMS if you wish, will be used for navigation and linked to the AP. Once that’s done, I select my final altitude of FL100 and add to that a VS of 1200 feet/minute. Not much, it could be a higher value, but not really needed.

By the way … how to control rheostats or knobs. Perhaps you know, but perhaps you’re struggling with it and therefore, a short explanation. Let assume you want to control the PANEL DIMMING rheostat. The best is to remove the control yoke, right? Click on the rod of the yoke and gone is it. When you place your mouse on top of the knob, you want rotate the knob in many ways. You can use the mouse wheel. Rotate the mouse wheel clockwise/counter-clockwise. This is also shown at the mouse symbol. A red arrow pointing UP or DOWN including a red illuminated mouse wheel in the mouse symbol. In case you have no mouse wheel, you can hold the left hand mouse button, and move your mouse to the left or right or position the mouse left or right of the knob and click with the left mouse button as much is necessary to rotate the knob. This also rotates the knob and finally, a third option to control the rheostat. Hold down the left hand mouse button and drag the mouse UP or DOWN. This allows you also to control the rheostat. Although this is an example with this knob, it’s basically standard for all knobs.

When I’ve reached 6000 feet, it’s time to climb out further. You can do that in many ways, but I prefer the easiest way. Select the AP annunciation panel and the second panel will popup too. Click the ALT knob and use the selector to enter 10000. The window should show ENT ALT 10000. Now click the VS knob on the same panel and rotate the knob on the right as many times that the window shows ENT VS 1200. One suggestion …. don’t make these changes on this popup panel while the simulator is in PAUSE. The moment you release PAUSE, your input is gone. After you’ve entered the new altitude and vertical speed, don’t forget to click the VS button on the AP control panel.

One of the reasons for this additional flight is to monitor and understand the behavior of having two Garmin navigation devices in the cockpit. I used from the beginning the GNS 530. Perhaps my main reason is that it has a larger display then that of the GNS 430. While passing waypoint PUW (VOR/DME) and heading for waypoint LEKIC, I noticed that GNS 430 is following the flight plan as I had hoped for. Not surprising you would say, but I wasn’t sure. Less then 1.0 NM before waypoint LEKIC, both Garmin devices give then as a consequence also the same message …. DTK 217 “x” S. Perhaps having two Garmin devices isn’t so bad.

The large GNS 530 will be used by me in the MAP mode while the smaller GNS 430 shows me the complete flight plan waypoints as far as possible. Suppose you have an iPad (or iPhone is also possible), then you’re able to visualize on a map on your tablet your flight which in turn uses the X-Plane data where you are. This interconnection can be achieved via X-Plane menu “Net Connections, tab iPhone/iPad” on your PC or Mac. For your iPhone/iPad, you need, logically, an app. A good app which works flawless is X-Mapper Lite which is by the way free. You can also decide to go for the payware version, X-Mapper Pro, which cost you only 2,99 Euro. Information about the Pro version can be found via this iTunes link.

The only comment I could think of is, the map presentation is not related to the aviation airspace. Although you can switch between Map, Hybrid and Satellite modes, I could imagine that you would like to see also aviation airspace. Anyway, that’s the only item I can bring up regarding this interesting app.

I didn’t intend that to make an ILS landing and besides that, CYCD doesn’t has ILS facilities. On the other hand, the Saratoga does have the APR option on the AP control panel. Either you use only the LOC beam or the complete ILS. That depends on what’s available. At the end of this additional flight to CYCD, I had no other option then a visual approach, but that’s what I did before and again, no surprises.

Ok then, some more words about how to arrange an ILS landing. First of all, enter the ILS frequency. A runway course isn’t needed. I entered the ILS frequency in the Garmin GNS 530 because that one is linked to VLOC 1 while Garmin GNS 430 is linked to VLOIC 2 although I noticed that after I’d entered in the GNS 530 my frequency and made it the active one, GNS 430 showed inactive also the same frequency. In one way or the other it seems there’s a link between the Garmin devices. What I understood so far and what I’ve seen; the AP is connected to VLOC 1 and therefore, is it linked to the GNS 530 since this window shows only COM 1 and VLOC 1 while Garmin GNS 430 only shows COM 2 and VLOC 2. Anyway, after I’ve entered the ILS frequency, in this example 111.50 which is the ILS for runway 06 KRSW. For the following you need to check the chart because that tells you which value you need to enter for the DH (Decision Height). Once found on the chart, you can enter the DH on the popup window right of the AP annunciator. Click the DH button and rotate the knob till you’ve got the right DH value. And again, don’t do this with the simulator in PAUSE!

What else?

Click the APR button on the AP control panel. You’ll see besides HDG, NAV also APR, ALT and GS. The moment you’ve reached the beginning of the GS, the ALT annunciation disappears. By the way, you can also monitor your position in relation to the GS via the HSI GS yellow dot. Although I’m quite sure you know this, just in case ….. the GNS 530 CDI indication must be in VLOC and not in GPS. That’s indicated about the CDI button on the bottom of the GNS 530. Suppose you’re curious what it will do when you press the CDI button once, remember that the AP will no longer be in APR mode.

That said, you need to activate the APR mode again on the AP control panel. Do you need to do anything else during your controlled ILS descent? Yes, there’s still a lot do … you need to control your indicated airspeed, monitor your flaps and when to extend to which position and finally, don’t forget to extend your landing gear and of course, the checklist items. When you’ve followed all these steps, you should have a successful ILS landing, partly done by the Saratoga AP and partly done by you since a FLARE and ROLL OUT are things you need to do yourself.

The End

With over 5000 words this impression has become quite long, so let’s try to keep the summary short.

Do I like the Saratoga II TC model or do I prefer the older Carenado Saratoga SP? Without doubts I would go for this one. The 3D cockpit is nicely modeled, looking good with not too much weathering although the throttle stand has some scratches. The instruments look good although you need to keep in mind that this Saratoga has old-fashioned indicator besides some Garmin stuff. Some front panels of instruments are a little blurry, but the overall is looking OK. The external modeling is OK, but I’m not so happy with the text at certain places on the aircraft. A quick recall … the mirror image text on the propeller blades, the blurry aircraft ID plate, instructions on the passenger door etc.

Perhaps some last words about the Garmin GNS 430 and GNS 530 manuals. These aren’t really tutorials on how to deal with this Garmin equipment. It’s helpful that these manuals are included, but I know now already that not everybody can use them. These Garmin devices are great, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to understand and/or how to operate.

Want to know a little more about the Saratoga? I couldn’t find the II TC manual, but I found the PA32 SP version. Not the right one, but it gives a little more background of the Saratoga in general. You can grab your copy via this link. Or are you perhaps more interested in the Maintenance or Service manual? Then you should use this link although I must admit that this manual covers the PA32 Saratoga SP and the II HP, but again, it gives you a deeper look into this Piper aircraft.

Another option is seeking for interesting Piper PA32 Saratoga II TC movies on YouTube ( I tell you, you’ll see a lots of hits of interesting movies that cover touch and go, takeoff, a complete flight etc.

More information about the Alabeo Saratoga can be found at the dedicated Aerosoft eShop web page or at the dedicated X-Plane.Org store web page. Just to make sure …. this impression is based on Alabeo Piper PA32 Saratoga II TC version 1.0. The aircraft is tested on an iMac with installed Mac OSX El Capitan and Yosemite. I used for both OS X-Plane version 10.45.

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen



Add-on: Payware Alabeo Piper PA32R Saratoga II TC v1.00
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | Aerosoft | Alabeo
Description: Realistic rendition of the Piper PA32R Saratoga II TC
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 386.4MB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen
Published: May 5th 2016
Hardware specifications: - iMac 27″ 3.5Ghz Late 2013
- Intel i7 3.5Ghz / 3.9Ghz during Boost Mode
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4096 MB
- 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
- 1 internal 1TB SSD (El Capitan 10.11.4)
- 3 external 1TB SSDs
- Saitek Pro Flight System
Software specifications: - El Capitan (10.11.4) | Yosemite (10.10.5) | Mavericks (10.9.5)
- Windows 10 Professional
- X-Plane 10.45c | X-Plane 10.45m


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